Fresh Prince gives Philadelphia 76ers fresh ownership
Thursday is a big day for NBA basketball fans in the city of Philadelphia. SSNN (Sixer Sense Sport Network, yes, we have one) has learned that a press conference called for Thursday morning at the Palestra by the Sixers will introduce their new majority ownership, led by Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, one of Hollywood’s distinguished and most glamorous couples, and replacing the now-minority interest owner, multi-billionaire Joshua Harris.
Josh Harris, long-time majority owner and leading financier for the purchase of the Philadelphia 76ers, which happened on October 18,2011. Harris, who went to the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, led a group of investors such as include David Blitzer, who will continue on in the capacity of Co-Managing Owner and an Alternate Governor of the NBA, CEO Adam Aron who will also serve as an Alternate Governor of the NBA, Martin Geller, David Heller, Travis Hennings, James Lassiter, Marc Leder, Jason Levien, Michael Rubin, new majority owners Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith, Handy Soetedjo, Erick Thohir and Art Wrubel, all of whom had made personal investments in the team. With the exception of the Smith’s and Harris’ equity, no other changes to the ownership structure were announced.
Last week, the NBA Board of Governors voted unanimously to approve the transfer of majority stake from Harris to the hollywood couple. Harris is one of three co-founders of Apollo Global Management, a private equity group. In a short statement, Harris thanked the hollywood couple for their interest in spearheading the team’s progress in the years ahead:
"“My partners and I are thrilled to have an opportunity to be led by such a warm and wonderful Hollywood couple as Will and Jada, who are now majority owners of the Sixers. It is at this critical time that the team is at a perilous crossroads, and requires an ownership leader who is somewhat insulated from the constant tugs and pulls of the Philadelphia community as we navigate construction of a true championship caliber team.”"
The Smiths released their own statement shortly thereafter:
"“It is an honor to become part of this storied franchise. We have a lot of work to do, but we have a rich history, a strong foundation and a bright future. We want to personally thank Joshua Harris for his strong leadership, for turning over an NBA franchise which is just now stepping through the door into a new and winning era, and for giving the city of Philadelphia a fairytale success story which will unfold before their very eyes. We are honored to continue this pursuit of excellence, not just for the championships that await this team, but for the wonderful city of Philadelphia – a city long overlooked for its contributions to professional sports.“"
The team was originally purchased by Harris’ group for a price of from $270 – $290 Million. With an estimated value now at $700 million, the amount of money exchanged is estimated to be in the $250 Million range. That is nearly the total net worth of the couple, whose combined worth was most recently estimated at $300 million by several hollywood magazines. Where these funds originate from is speculative at this point, although there have been recent rumors of newly hired Chairman of Basketball Operations Jerry Colangelo meeting with the Smiths in their $42 Million hollywood mansion. With Colangelo’s history of making things happen for the Sixers, and his personal history of ownership of an NBA franchise, it’s not out of the question to link his influence to this surprise move announced today.
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The new ownership will continue to includes numerous investors, but will now be led by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. ‘West Philadelphia born and raised,’ Will was born in Wynnefield and attended Overbrook High School.” Jada Pinkett Smith was born very close by in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. Owning part of the Philadelphia 76ers has been a dream come true. Owning a majority interest in the team is the stuff of which… well.. hollywood legends are made of.
Will and Jada are not just a figurehead ownership of the Philadelphia 76ers, with a token amount in order to drum up the marketability for ticket sales and merchandise. Will Smith is truly passionate about his team. A team he grew up knowing by heart: Doctor J, Chocolate Thunder, Moses, Mo, and the rest of his teenage idols.
Perhaps the moment which best reflects Will Smith’s passion in the Sixers occured in March 24, 2012, when then head coach Doug Collins had just led the team to victory over the Boston Celtics 99-86 for his 400th career victory. No one in the room came anywhere close to being just as excited as Will Smith on that occasion.
"For me, this is absolutely ridiculous, to be here with Coach, to be an owner of my hometown team and to be sitting on the floor when we beat Boston,” Smith said. “Larry Bird ruined my childhood, so this is fantastic.” Will Smith after Doug Collins’ 400th victory"
And so, that passion has carried them from bleachers to the top of the food chain in the organization.
Well, Will Smith And Jada Pinkett Smith are now in charge.
The initial storyline had thoughts about the restlessness of Harris to see progress in the team, and this was the only option available to the team to continue to stay the course. Another version of the storyline had the fact that Jerry Colangelo, current Chairman of Basketball Operations, was so impressed with the Philadelphia 76ers organization, that he personally bankrolled the Smiths ascension in the ownership ranks with an option to take over if they find the demands to be too much on their schedule.
It’s tough to know at this point. But there is one thing that I DO know. I know that the most likely storyline is that this is simply April 1, and this has been en elaborate April Fools joke. Happy April Fools Day from all of us here at The Sixer Sense!